The road map designed by the “Quartet” – the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union – aims at a “final comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 2005” that “will result in the emergence of an independent democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its neighbors.”
The negotiations for this settlement will be based on “UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and includes an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue, and a negotiated resolution of the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides.”
As these excerpts of the document show, the road map is an ambitious plan that contains important elements conducive to a stable peace in Israel-Palestine. However, given the myriad of factors involved in this plan, I am pessimistic about the final success of this new peace plan. Yet, despite our mutual lack of confidence, I must take issue with most of Mr. Sarria’s column (Daily Nexus, “Peace on the Horizon?”, May 12, 2003).
Mr. Sarria related his concern regarding the success of the plan to what he called “the Arab community’s lack of ability to stand behind a real winner within their culture.” Given the implicit racist grounds of this statement, I necessarily must disagree with Mr. Sarria’s biological determinism as an explanation for the factors that threaten the success of the road map. The road map is not threatened by any racial factor, but rather by multiple factors, including the internal disagreement within the Quartet, the lack of serious commitment from the Israeli government and the weakness of the Palestinian Authority’s political structure.
In his last visit to the Middle East, EU Foreign Affairs Representative Javier Solana held conversations with Yasser Arafat, the P.A.’s elected president. With this seemingly innocuous meeting, Solana expressed the EU’s support of Arafat as a valid speaker for the Palestinians in these peace negotiations. This support comes at a time when Colin Powell had previously declared Mahmoud Abbas, the recently elected Palestinian prime minister, as the only valid speaker in these negotiations.
I am neither optimistic nor confident of Sharon’s commitment to peace. Sharon has recently rejected negotiations on the status of the settlements built after 2001, one of the elements subject to negotiations within phase one of the road map. This rejection comes at a time when the report released by various international donors to the Palestinians denounced the devastating socioeconomic impact on the West Bank of the wall that Sharon’s administration has been building since May 2002. According to this report, “In some places the wall is located as much as six kilometers inside the West Bank and, when completed, as many as approximately 12,000 Palestinians could be left on the Israeli side of the wall, cut off from their land, workplaces and essential social services.”
Last but not least, the weakness of the P.A.’s political structure stands as a major hindrance to the credibility of these negotiations. The administration of the P.A., democratically elected in January 1996, has been subject to internal and external accusations of corruption, leading some of its members to resign from their positions and to withdraw support of the P.A. The P.A. has been under Israeli military siege for the last year and a half, making it difficult for the P.A. to carry on with its administrative and political duties, not to mention any attempt to introduce internal reforms against corruption. These internal and external elements have weakened the P.A.’s structure and credibility to the point that it will have difficulty meeting one of the conditions stated in phase one.
Mar Logrono is a Ph.D. student in the History Dept.